President Uhuru Kenyatta has underscored the importance of shipbuilding to the manufacturing pillar of the country’s Big 4 development blueprint saying the activity will help unlock the country’s immense ocean and blue economy potential. “The direct, indirect and induced impacts of the Mombasa Shipyard will create many jobs, generate diverse investment opportunities and raise revenue for the country. “The key sub-sectors of the blue economy, which include maritime transport and logistics, fisheries, as well as ship-building and repair, represent low hanging fruits that must be exploited,” the President said. The Head of State spoke on Friday in Mombasa County where he commissioned the 4000-ton Kenya Shipyards Limited’s Mombasa Shipyard at the Kenya Navy Base in Mtongwe, Mombasa County. At the military event, also attended by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the President said the new shipyard heralds a new chapter in East Africa’s shipbuilding industry noting that the slipway will generate hundreds of new high-value jobs. He said the new shipyard, the largest in the region, will be able to serve public and private commercial shipping needs by designing and building new vessels, undertaking repairs among other specialised maritime services. At the same time, the President expressed concern over hurdles that still hinder the potential to leverage the sector for the country’s benefit including failure to keep abreast with changes in emerging markets. “This untenable situation, quite apart from rendering us regionally and globally uncompetitive, locks our people out from exploiting and benefiting from this sector. “This is the case even where we have historical and contemporary competencies; which have been left idle to our detriment,” President Kenyatta regretted. In this regard, the President directed responsible state agencies to formulate a comprehensive national training program designed that will produce 4,000 qualified seafarers. Further, the Head of State called for the setting up of an open ship register, ship repair and building incentives, a bunkering and chandelling package as well as the exploration of fiscal possibilities of zero-rating taxation on imported fishing vessels. To maximize the economic benefits of the Mombasa Shipyard, the President urged coastal county governments to draw up strategies for strengthening commercial maritime activities such as fishing, tourism and transport. “By so doing, it will be possible to unlock the enormous business potential that abounds within Kenya’s territorial waters and the coastal strip,” he said. On its part, President Kenyatta said the national Government will continue to collaborate with stakeholders including foreign governments in the sustainable use of Kenya’s ocean and blue economy resources. “With high-quality facilities in Kisumu and Mombasa, I urge Kenyans to fully utilize them (shipyards) to repair, maintain and service their boats; and also to construct new ships and boats locally,” the Head of State said. In his address, Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa said the commissioning of the Mombasa Shipyard is a major milestone in the operationalization of the Kenya Shipyards Limited which has a similar facility on Lake Victoria in Kisumu County. “Once operational, the shipyard will help to unlock business and economic opportunities within the coastal region and the country as a whole,” CS Wamalwa said. Chief of Defence Forces Gen Robert Kibochi said one of the most important benefits of the Mombasa Shipyard is skills transfer. “We have currently trained close to 150 specialized teams in various areas including specialized welding which is critical to shipbuilding and we look forward to starting (ship) production at this particular facility,” Gen Kibochi said.